All posts in “Technology”

Report: Xiaomi sales climb but Huawei remains China’s top smartphone brand

China’s Xiaomi, once the world’s highest valued tech startup, is getting over a disappointing two years with a notable spike in sales in its homeland during the second quarter of 2017.

That’s according a new report from analyst firm Canalys, which estimates that Xiaomi, which was valued at $45 billion at the end of 2014, shipped 15 million phones during the quarter to rank fourth in China. That’s a 60 percent rise from Q1 2017.

Despite that, Huawei maintained its lead from the previous quarter with 23 million shipments ahead of brother-sister companies Oppo (21 million) and Vivo (16 million), the two companies that rose to prominence last year in China and beyond. Apple completed the top five, according to Canalys, having been leapfrogged by Xiaomi.

As for the rest, sales were down for Apple, which just announced its first head of China, Samsung and Meizu. According to the report, the top five ranked companies pull in almost three-quarters of all shipments.

“Xiaomi still offers the best value in the Chinese market, and it remains the preferred choice for price-conscious consumers. The online channel continues to be a key route to market for Xiaomi and this quarter saw it take the lead in the 618 online sales events across online retail platforms, such as and Tmall,” Canalys analyst Lucio Chen said in a note.

CEO Lei Jun hailed Xiaomi’s resurgence this year, calling this most recent quarter “a major inflection point in our growth.”

“After two years of internal recalibration, Xiaomi is once again embarking on a rapid growth trajectory,” he told press, adding that the company is aiming to reach 100 million phone sales in 2018.

Xiaomi has always had a penchant for revealing its annual sales figures, thanks to some spectacular growth in its early days, but this year it declined to give full numbers for 2016, marking its first non-reveal in its history. Issues began appearing when Xiaomi missed its sales target for 2015, selling “over 70 million” devices but not the 80 million that Lei had previously forecast.

The rise of competitors like Oppo and Vivo, and Huawei’s focus on mid-range devices with its Honor brand, were largely seen as responsible for Xiaomi’s struggles. Equally, competitors became wise to Xiaomi’s online distribution tactics and mimicked them with some success. While, overseas, Xiaomi’s expansion plans failed to ignite, with India arguable the lone exception. That wasn’t helped by the departure of its head of international, Hugo Barra, who left to join Facebook earlier this year.

But 2017 could indeed be a different year. Canalys’ Chen forecasts that Xiaomi’s budget ‘Redmi’ brand, plus its new focus on expanding its offline retail footprint, will put pressure on Vivo, Oppo and Huawei to retain their positions and sales.

How to get all of your text messages on your Mac

Don't miss any messages.
Don’t miss any messages.

Image: lili sams/mashable

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a text message because you didn’t see it. Luckily, you can now start getting your texts sent to iMessage on your Mac, but the setup process is a little tricky. Here’s how to do it.

First of all, you’ll need to have OS X Yosemite on your Mac. If you bought a computer in 2014 or after, you should be all set. You can check your version of macOS by click the Apple icon in the top left of your desktop screen, then clicking “About This Mac.”

Next, you’ll need to sync your iPhone and Mac via your iCloud account. Be sure to register both devices under the same email to make this process is as easy as possible — this just means you’ll use the same Apple ID for both. This signals to your phone and computer that they should pull information from the same account. 

Once you know your iPhone and Mac are using the same iCloud account, it’s time to make sure iMessages is actually turned on. You can start with your iPhone.

  • Open Settings

  • Go to Messages

  • Make sure iMessage is on

Make sure everything's right in Settings.

Make sure everything’s right in Settings.

Image: molly sequin/mashable

Also be sure to turn on the option called “Send as SMS.” This is what allows you to send a text even when iMessage isn’t available.

Next, choose the addresses you want iMessage to send and receive messages from. This is under the “Send & Receive” label on your iPhone. 

Once you’re in this menu, it will show you which Apple ID your iMessage is using, so double check to make sure it’s the right one. Below, it shows you all of the addresses you can use for this account. So if you have a phone number and email address that you want to send messages from on the same network, add them all.

Add all address you'll be using.

Add all address you’ll be using.

Image: molly sequin/mashable

Now, your iPhone should be all set up. Next you’ll need to setup your Mac. The instructions are very similar to the ones you just followed, so it should be really easy. Here’s what to do:

  • Launch Messages on your Mac

  • Enter Apple ID email address and password (make sure it’s the same one you just used on your iPhone)

  • Click Messages in the Menu bar in the top lefthand corner of your Mac

  • Choose Preferences

  • Choose Accounts

  • Choose the phone number and email addresses you want to use for the account (once again, make sure they’re the same ones you selected on your iPhone)

  • Choose which phone number or email address you want people to see when you start a new conversation

And there you have it! The directions on both very similar, so once you get through one it should be smooth sailing. You definitely don’t need to set up messages on both, but doing so will make sure you never miss out on anything. So set it up, and start chatting away on all of your devices!

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The Orii smart ring lets you control your smartphone using only your voice

Orii is a new smart ring that gives you full hands-free control of your smartphone. The device connects to your phone with Bluetooth and it can be used to provide crystal clear audio, which makes it an interesting tool for those with sight or hearing issues.

It works using bone conduction technology so that, when wearing the ring, simply putting a finger to your ear will give clear and crisp playback of whatever is running on your phone. That could be a phone call, a music or video clip, etc.

Likewise, Orii enables a user to go completely hands-free with the device through the use of voice controls. The ring can be used to make calls, send messages, post to social media, and more. It works directly with Siri and Google Assistant to give Android and iOS users full hands-free control of their device’s virtual assistant, while the companion app enables customized alerts via LED lights and vibrations.

The ring has been in development since 2015 and this week it launched on Kickstarter where it costs upwards of $99. Already, the campaign has surpassed its $30,000 goal with 27 days remaining at the time of writing.

Orii is the brainchild of Kevin Wong, whose father has been visually impaired since he was a teenager. Wong told TechCrunch that he originally set out to develop a device that could help his father, and others like him, get more from their phone. In this current era of smartphone connectivity, Wong was worried that a lack of accessibility options put his father at a disadvantage.

Origami Labs, the company behind Orii, was founded by Wong (CEO) and three other MBA students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The team initially went through a range of different types of device in the quest for a solution, that included a smartwatch and other wearable prototypes. Eventually they settled on the ring as a form factor, and the past year or so has been dedicated to packing the technology into the limited real estate for the product to work.

And it works. I’ve tried multiple close-to-finished versions and found the audio clarity to be excellent. I could hear a music clip clearly during a loud after-party at our TechCrunch China event in Shenzhen, for one, and it worked equally well at the very busy Rise tech event in Hong Kong this month.

Wong told me that already Origami Labs has sold commitments of devices to medical and care institutions. On the business-side, the company raised money from Alibaba’s Hong Kong entrepreneurship fund and Radiant Venture Capital, while it has relationships with China-based manufacturers.

Beyond offering new accessibility options for the visually or hearing impaired, Origami Labs is aiming to build out a voice assistant platform that will be useful for anyone. Piggybacking on technologies like Siri and Google Assistant, Wong said he sees potential for the ring to act as a contextually-aware prompt.

That’s to say that it could be capable of being triggered by a keyword and then acting on that to make an action. For example, asking if you want to book an Uber based on hearing the word ‘taxi’. The team is working to develop a solution that listens in passively, and not intrusively, so as to maximize battery life and protect user privacy.

The initial Orii rings don’t ship with that capability, but Origami Labs is working to ship an update that could be pushed over-the-air to all devices to equip them with the features. First of all though, the priority is to complete the Kickstarter campaign and ship all orders by February.

Elon Musk is so worried about the threat of AI, he wants government to regulate it

Image: Paul Sancya/AP/REX/Shutterstock

For years, Elon Musk has warned us about the dangers of artificial intelligence — even igniting a global discussion on the danger, calling it our greatest existential threat next to nukes.

In a speech at the National Governor’s Association on Saturday, the Tesla CEO reiterated his long-standing sentiments on AI technology.

“I have access to the very most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it.” He also flatly stated that AI is “the greatest risk we face as a civilization,” suggesting that the government intervene and regulate the technology before it’s too late.

Musk argued government regulation was essential because companies without proper oversight risk turning entire industries completely autonomous, leaving millions jobless.  

“AI’s a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation, instead of reactive. Because by the time we are reactive with AI regulation, it’s too late,” Musk said, adding: “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization, in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, or bad food were not.”

Musk’s unwavering warnings about our inevitable, machine-driven doom isn’t surprising, but his call for government intervention is significant.

“I’m against overregulation for sure,” Musk stressed, “But man, I think with we’ve got to get on that with AI, pronto.” 38b0 bbc5%2fthumb%2f00001

Vertu is dead

It’s been a long, downward slide for cellphone maker Vertu. The company, founded by Nokia in 1998, was supposed to be a luxury phone provider to the stars and, to a degree, it delivered. They sold the $11,000 phones like expensive watches in boutique stores in tony neighborhoods. Vertu, with its precious metals and fine, hand-cut leather was supposed to maintain its luxury lead for decades.

It didn’t.

The history of Vertu and be defined as Before iPhone and After iPhone. After the smartphone began its ascent luxury became far less important than usability. Devices like the hand-made Vertu and its competitor Sirin seemed to make less and less sense, even with features like sapphire screens and super-secure communication systems.

Ultimately, Vertu could only sell phones to those for whom phones didn’t matter. That audience quickly shrunk over the past decade.

The company will cut 200 jobs with its liquidation. Its current owner, “a Turkish exile in Paris” named Hakan Uzan, wanted to pull the company out of bankruptcy with a £1.9 million payment against a deficit of £128 million. Creditors refused the offer. Uzan says he will maintain the brand and technology and could rebuild the company.

The fall began last year. One source wrote us that “…what went down at Vertu is a 30% voluntary redundancies across the whole organisation, plus temps so actually it’s closer to 50%” in August 2016 and that the company wanted to go downmarket for a moment on a device “with cheaper leather on it for half the price.” It didn’t work.